Cabaret Review: Barbara Cook’s Spotlight presents Barbara Cook

Barbara Cook. Photo by Denise Winters.

Very few performers can walk out on stage and get a standing ovation before they open their mouths. Barbara Cook is one of those performers. Barbara Cook is the grande dame of all cabaret singers. Everyone tries to match her elegance and grace but very few succeed.

Keeping in mind that Cook can sing the phone book and have it sound spectacular, here are a few of the many highlights from her June 16th concert at the Kennedy Center.

With the pairing of “The House of The Rising Sun” and “Bye Bye Blackbird,” Cook explained how the two songs actually go together. Both of the numbers dealt with a house of ill repute. I never thought of that before and now I will think of this when I hear those two songs.

Cook is a huge fan of You Tube and stated that she finds some of her material on it. One such song was Dan Hicks “I Don’t Want Love” which is a country western list song. It’s hard to imagine Cook singing lyrics like:

“If love makes you give up ham and greens
Chicken pot pie and lima beans
If love makes you give up all them things
I don’t want love…”

She sings the lyrics with such style, that a country western song is now turned into a new cabaret classic.

If I had to pick my favorite song of the evening (and trust me this is hard to do), it would have to be “Here’s To Us.” It was soulful, moving and sung to sheer perfection.

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Words cannot begin to describe her professionalism, superb singing style and grace. 

Other songs included “Makin Whoopeee,” “Georgia on My Mind” and “I Got Rhythm” which gave each of the members of her four piece band a chance to shine.  Every Barbara Cook concert ends with a performance of one song done totally acoustic (no microphone). John Lennon’s “Imagine” was performed as that song of choice. If Barbara Cook can fill the hall of Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre without a microphone, so can the rest of you. Everyone should take a lesson from this living legend of the cabaret scene.

Barbara Cook’s band consisted of four top-notch musicians: Ted Rosenthal (Musical Director/Pianist), Jay Leonhart (Bass), Wareen Odze (Drums) and Steve Kenyon (Woodwinds). These four gentlemen added to the class presented by Cook and I would like to point out that at a time when most singers carry a synthesizer player for effect, Barbara Cook is still doing it how it should be done, using an all acoustic sound. Now that is class.

To say that one is lucky to see Barbara Cook in concert is a huge understatement. Words cannot begin to describe her professionalism, superb singing style and grace. This is why Barbara Cook was just awarded a Kennedy Center Honor back in December. This is why Barbara Cook is considered the greatest living interpreter of the American songbook.

Running Time: 80 minutes no intermission.

Barbara Cook’s Spotlight presents Barbara Cook was a two night only sold out event presented June 15th and 16th, 2012 in the Terrace Theater of The Kennedy Center.

About Elliot Lanes

Elliot Lanes has been a professional stage manager/sound designer/board op for over 20 years. After relocating to Washington, DC from the New York City area and marrying the girl of his dreams Jennifer Perry, he has been privileged to work on productions at Theatre J, Synetic, Prince George's Community College and Studio Theater to name a few. He has contributed designs for many shows in the last three Capital Fringe Festivals, two of which garnered critical raves. He is also the creator of MD Theatre Guide's highly successful 'A Quick 5' column.